Panerai began making watches in Florence, Italy back in 1860, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that the firm produced its first wristwatch. By then its roots in Florence were as deep as those in Switzerland, where Panerai watches were produced.
The breakthrough for the company was an order for diving watches from the Italian Navy, for whom Panerai had been creating instruments of various types since the turn of the century. With a war coming on, the navy was keen to outfit its elite corps of frogmen with wristwatches.
Featuring a Rolex movement, the limited-edition Panerai Radiomir (only 300 were made) was designed for use by commandos and torpedo riders—frogmen who rode a slow-moving torpedo toward a target before attaching a timed mine to the underside of a ship and then riding away. The watches had a cushion-shaped case, a screw-down crown to keep water out of the movement, and oiled-leather straps that were long enough to be worn on the outside of a diving suit. Given their limited supply and the tough conditions they were subjected to, these watches are very highly prized by collectors today.
The watch took its name, Radiomir, from the luminous material that Panerai first developed in 1910. Made of zinc sulphide and radium bromide, Radiomir allowed the numbers and hands on a watch to be read in dark conditions. It was replaced in 1949 by Luminor, which glows thanks to the presence of tritium, a less-dangerous compound than radium bromide.
Throughout the 1950s and ’60s, Panerai continued to produce wristwatches for the Italian Navy in regular and destro (left-handed) versions. Some watches from this period were known as Trittico watches, thanks to their trio of features, which included a depth gauge.
Panerai also made Kampfschwimmer watches, some with so-called California dials (numbers on the bottom, Roman numerals on the top), for Germany’s only postwar commando unit. And in 1956, Panerai created a large-face Radiomir watch for the Egyptian Navy.
Panerai might have remained a military diving watch in the minds of the public had it not been for Sylvester Stallone, who, in 1995, purchased a Luminor while on location in Italy. Sales of the watches jumped after its debut in Stallone’s “Daylight,” and Sly even had some watches—dubbed Slytech—made with his signature engraved on the back. These he gave as gifts to friends, including fellow action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
National Watch and Clock Museum
Clubs & Associations
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Panerai Watches
Source: Google News
Rolex e Panerai patacca sequestrati a La Spezia: inchiesta partita dalla Procura ...Riviera24.it, March 24th
Sembravano pezzi originali a tutti gli effetti. Un verifica più approfondita svolta con la consulenza dei periti delle società, ha però rivelato che sono chiaramente contraffatti. Sono i 42 Rolex e un Panerai sequestrati dall'Ufficio Antifrode della...Read more
Hands On The Panerai PAM 615 Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Chrono ...Haute Time, March 13th
Go big or go home. It looks like Panerai came to Geneva with the mission of staying in the minds of collectors with the futuristic “Carbotech” and the 52mm Mare Nostrum Titanio. But while those two watches made the headlines, it's the more versatile...Read more
Officine Panerai opens debut boutique in BahrainTrade Arabia, March 11th
Officine Panerai, a firm that designs, manufactures, markets and sells watches, has opened its first boutique in Bahrain in collaboration with partner Asia Jewellers, as part of its expansion plans. The new boutique opened its doors in Moda Mall, a...Read more
Luxury watches thrive in Saudi ArabiaAl-Arabiya, March 11th
On how Officine Panerai promotes their brand, he said “in Officine Panerai we have limited editions of productions. In promotion we mainly depend on spreading the word of mouth among our customers, their families and their friends. Sometimes we hold ...Read more
Radiomir 1940 Equation of Time, 8 DaysWorld Tempus, March 4th
The inclusion of this complication does not alter the classic Panerai design of the the watch, housed in the Radiomir 1940 case, made of AISI 361L stainless steel – an alloy that is particularly resistant to corrosion – with a polished finish, and...Read more
Officine Panerai Sponsors Sailing Heals' First Children's Sail in Coconut GroveHaute Living, March 3rd
On Sunday, a very special event took place in the waters off of Coconut Grove. To celebrate their annual sponsorship of the Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge North American Circuit, Officine Panerai got together with their official charity partner...Read more
CORRECTED - Officine Panerai drops prices in Hong Kong as euro weakensSouth China Morning Post (subscription), February 27th
Luxury European watch brand Officine Panerai has dropped its prices in Hong Kong by 5 per cent in response to the changes in the value of the euro currency, its chief executive Angelo Bonati told the South China Morning Post. "We try to keep lower...Read more
Panerai Makes $19500 Watch From a New Carbon-Fiber CompositeBloomberg, January 27th
The last few years Panerai has been pushing hard to put in-house movements into more and more of its watches. The watch we have here is indeed powered by Panerai mechanics, but it's what's on the outside that's new and exciting. The PAM 616's ...Read more